Long Island

Groundbreaking A.I. brain surgery helps NY quadriplegic man regain movement

A paralysis victim, Keith Thomas, is finally able to move his arms again after receiving an A.I. implant in his brain

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A Long Island man is giving hope to 100 million people thanks to a groundbreaking surgery.

Artificial intelligence has helped a quadriplegic man regain feeling and movement in his arm and hand years after an accident left him paralyzed.

"Now I can reach to my check, reach to my chin," Keith Thomas said.

Three years ago, the Massapequa man broke his neck in a pool accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down.

"It was always one step forward, two steps back. We were just praying for his survival," Michelle Bennett, his sister, says of the ordeal.

Thomas' sister has helped care for the 45-year-old since the incident. So it was fitting that Bennett's touch was among the first things her brother felt, thanks to what doctors call a breakthrough procedure.

"Now I'm just waiting to regain more strength so I can wipe the tears away from my eyes," Thomas said.

Thomas broke down Friday while thanking the Northwell Health team that is helping to restore his movement and feeling.

"Keith is a true pioneer here doing something that hasn't been done before," Chad Bouton, of the Institute of Bioelectric Medicine, said.

Bouton led the clinical study designed to help people like Thomas overcome his paralysis. In a 15-hour surgery last March, doctors implanted five microchips in Thomas' brain. The computer technology, with the help of A.I., reconnected Thomas' brain with his spinal cord and the rest of his body.

"We actually had to have Keith awake during a small portion of the surgery. He felt his thumb, he felt his finger," Dr. Ashesh Mehta, Thomas' surgeon, said.

His doctors say an electronic bridge was able to bypass Thomas' injury.

"I didn't think that was possible at first, all this movement. Going forward I'm thinking maybe it is," he said.

Thomas' ability to move has improved dramatically since the surgery, giving his loved ones hope for an even better future.

"He's not doing it just for himself, he's doing it for all the others," Bouton said.

And that hope now also extends to the 100 million people worldwide suffering from paralysis.

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